An earlier version of this report said that Zelle was processing twice as much volume as Venmo and the Cash App combined, but it incorrectly referred only to the Cash App’s business volumes. The story has been corrected.
Zelle may not have its own clothing line or suggest emojis when you pay your friend, but the peer-to-peer payment service is moving serious money, and that seems to be raising eyebrows these days.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been taking aim at Zelle — and the big banks behind it — for not doing enough to protect consumers from fraud on the platform. She chewed out banking executives at a September congressional hearing and more specifically lit into Wells Fargo & Co.
on Thursday by saying that the company has higher rates of Zelle fraud than other banks.
Zelle said in a release that the “recent statements regarding Wells Fargo’s fraud and scam rates are inaccurate” and that more than 99.9% of payments made on the broader Zelle network are sent without being reported for fraud or scams.
This attention apparently has some consumers taking a closer look at Zelle as well, with one Twitter user highlighting that Zelle processed $490 billion in volume last year, compared with $230 billion for PayPal Holdings Inc.’s
That tweet also mentioned $15 billion in volume for for Block Inc.’s
Cash App, though that statistic isn’t directly comparable because it represents only the platform’s business volumes. Block doesn’t report total GPV for the Cash App inclusive of consumer payments, but the company has disclosed that as of March 2022 it had 80 million annual active users who participated in a financial transaction through the platform’s network.
Unlike Venmo and the Cash App, Zelle isn’t a pop-culture phenomenon, but its strong volumes shouldn’t come as too big a shock given that the service has a key advantage. It’s run by Early Warning Services LLC, which is owned by the big banks. Those banks are among more than 1,700 financial institutions that allow their customers to easily use the service through their own platforms.
“People are a lot more likely to use that just because they don’t have to download a whole new app,” said Bill Hardekopf, the chief industry analyst at Moneycrashers.com. “That might deter some people from using a PayPal or Venmo.”
Peer-to-peer platforms depend on network effects, and Zelle’s place within banking apps gives it an edge. The person you want to pay may not have the Cash App, but they probably bank with one of Zelle’s partner institutions.
Matt Schulz, the chief credit analyst at LendingTree, noted that bank representatives actively mentioned Zelle to him during recent branch visits. “This is certainly something a lot of people are using and that’s being pushed by the financial institutions, but ultimately there’s still a lot of risk involved with using these things,” he said.
Participants in a Twitter discussion offered various other reasons for Zelle’s impressive volume numbers, with some seeing Zelle as the service of choice for larger transfers like rent payments or home-improvement deposits, while users might be more prone to use Venmo for splitting a dinner check. Bigger transaction amounts skew volume numbers regardless of how many people are using a given platform — and how often.
“Makes sense since I use Zelle for rent and Venmo for everything else,” one Twitter user wrote. Another simply replied: “Landlords.”
The original poster took the feedback in stride. “Way more people use Zelle over Venmo/Cash than I ever realized … and also people seem to care a lot about using Zelle,” he wrote.
The built-in nature of Zelle’s service might also help it appeal to older users especially concerned about the security of their financial information online. While Venmo and the Cash App are popular with many younger users, Zelle is thought to appeal to the older crowd a bit more successfully.
“Zelle being built into the banking system in a lot of banking systems gives it a leg up in terms of perceived security,” Hardekopf said.